So What Are the Dietary Laws For?

The dietary laws are physical laws that reveal peoples’ spiritual condition. They are to be obeyed in order to constantly remind us to examine our spiritual condition.  I am advocating following the dietary laws as they were originally written and not those that are part of oral tradition. There are obvious health benefits to the dietary laws but I want us to see the spiritual aspect of the dietary laws. Remember, the first sin committed involved a dietary law that separated man from God.

If you read the New International Version of Mark 7:19, you may be misled into thinking the dietary laws have been abolished. The phrase “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean”” from the New International Version is not in the original Greek text. God would never have made what He once called an abomination to be clean or acceptable.  That would change God’s plan for eternity.

In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus said the law would not pass away until heaven and earth pass away. In Romans 3:31 Paul said that the law has not been abolished because of our faith in Christ. Paul confirmed Torah. Why do we insist on abolishing it?

We need to always interpret the New Testament in light of Torah. Most of the dietary laws are found in Leviticus 11:1-23 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21.

Clean land animals are characterized by cud-chewing animals that have completely split hooves. These include cows, goats, sheep, deer, reindeer, moose, elk, buffalo, and giraffe.

Clean land animals that die by a means other than slaughter – either those that die naturally or by being torn by wild beasts are also unclean. Goats (kids) are not to be cooked in their mother’s milk. This prohibition is made three times in the Torah (Ex. 23:19, Ex. 34:26, Deut. 14:21).

Clean land animals must have both characteristics of clean land animals — not only one of them.

Unclean land animals have either only one or none of the two characteristics of clean animals.  Unclean animals include animals such as pigs, horses, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, dogs, cats, and camels.

Clean fish must have obvious scales and fins. Some of these include bass, bluegill, carp, cod, crappie, flounder, grouper, haddock, halibut, perch, salmon, snapper, sole, trout, tuna, and whitefish.

Unclean fish or water creatures do not have both fins and scales. These include catfish, eel, squid, shark, clams, crabs, crayfish, prawns, lobster, shrimp, oysters, scallops, sturgeon, snails, turtles, and frogs. These are not only unclean. They are abominations.

Clean birds are anything not listed as unclean. Clean birds include chicken, dove, duck, goose, pheasant, pigeon, quail, sparrow, and turkey.

Unclean birds include eagles, vultures, hawks, ravens, owls, storks, pelicans, herons, and bats. They are unclean abominations.

Clean creeping creatures include winged insects with two jointed jumping legs such as crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, and katydids.

Unclean creeping creatures include other small winged insects, insects with legs that crawl on the ground, and everything that creeps on its belly. For example scorpions, beetles, centipedes, spiders, snakes, and worms are unclean abominations.

Animals or fish having only one characteristic of clean animals or fish should be considered to be a counterfeit of the real thing.

We need to understand that all people fall into three basic spiritual categories:

  • Clean
  • Unclean
  • Counterfeit

Clean people are those whose sins have been atoned by Jesus’ sacrifice and those who have been cleansed by the water that flowed from Jesus’ side (John 19:34, Zech. 13:1). First John 1:9-10 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (NKJV)

We must study God’s laws to know what sin is so we can confess it. Unintentional sin still carries guilt that must be removed by confessing the sin once it is known.

Unclean people are those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior. They have no interest, desire, or willingness to submit to God. They will be cast into the lake of fire on Judgment Day because their sins have separated them from God.

Counterfeit people are in the most precarious position. They often appear to be Christians and may even believe they are Christians despite having never turned away from their sins or submitted to the Lordship of Christ in their lives. This is obvious because they are not obeying the laws of God. Even though they are often good and loving people, they still practice lawlessness. Love is their primary guide for life.  They are much like unclean animals such as pigs that have one of the two requirements to be clean.

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (NKJV)  Lawlessness is Torah-lessness.

We need to regularly examine our spiritual condition and confess our sins so we can be regularly cleansed.

What spiritual condition will you be in when Jesus returns — clean, unclean, or counterfeit?

The dietary laws compose a section of God’s written Torah. They are not too difficult for you or beyond your reach (Deut. 30:11, Matt. 11:29-30). Don’t you think it’s time to obey them?

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